Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. It is estimated that around 86% of Javanese people are Muslim. Even though Javanese culture is known for its openness, Islamic law does not approve of deviation. As a result there are only a few places to worship for Javanese Muslims who fall outside the boundaries of Islamic law (Brooks, 2012).
When a man or woman wants to learn how to pray there is a place to go, but for transvestites, practising the Islamic religion, they are simply not accepted. A Waria as they are known is an Indonesian transsexual or “Indonesia’s third sex”. The Islamic law, which is now the dominant religion in Indonesia, only acknowledges male and female, transvestites have been forbidden, making it difficult to practise their faith. They believe that even if all of Islamic state doesn’t accept them, god does. The Senin-Kamis School in Yogyakarta is an Islamic school for Javanese transvestites. The main purpose of the boarding school is to provide a place for the Warias to worship, a place to feel comfortable and to be accepted. Most Warias lead unhealthy lifestyles, especially those working as prostitutes at night. Most young transvestites start working as prostitutes because they leave their homes without any money. A lot of transvestites now are changing directions from prostitution to street singing, where the income is better and more predictable, making around Rp100000 ($10) per day.
Injecting silicon into their faces and breasts helps the girls feel more feminine. Breast implantation is an expensive procedure, which is why they usually get injections that are more affordable. Different from the transvestites that we may know or hear about, Warias accept what god has made them, and for that reason do not wish to have sex-reassignment surgeries. “We believe we are born as men and must return to God as men.”
They want to live their lives accepted by society, like any normal woman would. Even though their situation is far from perfect, there is a strong determination to better themselves. It takes courage. Their main opinion is that it is their relationship with god that matters in the end and not their relationship with people. With lipstick in their pockets, and god on their side, it seems a Waria, can have a fighting chance.
Vice, ‘Indonesia’s Transsexual Muslims (Documentary)’, viewed 3rd May 2015,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJTzMHDaOlg
The Blog, ‘Tales of a Waria’, viewed 3rd May 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-huang/tales-of-the-waria-indonesia_b_1546629.html
The Advocate, date unknown, ‘Who are the Waria’, viewed 3rd May 2015 http://www.advocate.com/print-issue/advance/2011/11/15/who-are-warias
Image1: http://www.indonesiamatters.com/1210/salon-waria/, viewed 3rd May 2015
Image2: http://www.vice.com/read/warias-come-out-and-plaaayayay-0000007-v18n10, viewed 3rd May 2015